Back when I was in Civil Engineering School at the Georgia Institute of Technology, I joined the American Society of Civil Engineers. One of the competitions we’ve done for decades has been to build a concrete canoe out of air-entrained Portland Cement Concrete. (My professor for my first quarter of concrete design was from the far East. He never uttered the word “concrete” without “Portland Cement” in front of it. He also had a particular way of saying these three words that sticks in my head. I can’t think these three words without an accent in my head. It’s a curse.)
So, I’ve known for decades that there are some really cool things you can do with concrete technology, but it took the advancement in computer science and robotics along with some super-scale thinking to make the 3-D printer whose medium is concrete (sorry Dr. Lai, of CE4214 – Concrete Structural Components). I’ve seen some talk of this out of China, but now I’m seeing this Russian company, Apis Cor, who seems to be doing a more smooth job of delivery and printing than the Chinese examples.
Here’s a quick video that shows the process:
As you can see, if you were to really build a massive printing head, you could do almost anything with this technology. I will say, it seems limited to some extent in that structural beams with reinforcing bar or cable to take on tension loads need to be cast so that the proper amount of pre-tension can be built into the structure.
Nevertheless, I think this technology is going to make an impact in the future. There are some drawbacks which have to be worked out, like running utilities inside walls, etc. A more detailed design of the walls could allow for the utility chase to be actually “printed” as a void in the wall.
I can certainly see that in developing countries, this could be an ultra cheap way to erect very affordable, and very durable homes.
To see the finishing of the oddly-shaped home above, watch the video below: